News Local

Vancouver Police target fireworks boozing

By Richard Zussman, QMI Agency Vancouver

Expect more police on the streets and a crackdown on public boozing during this weekend's Celebration of Light.

Vancouver police chief Jim Chu said there would be up to 30 per cent more officers working this year's event in an effort to prevent a repeat of the riot that followed Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Chu said Thursday he's ordered for more boots on the street to manage the 400,000-plus crowd expected downtown Saturday for the kickoff of the fireworks, though he wouldn't say how many.

"The fireworks will attract a crowd larger than what we saw for the Stanley Cup playoffs. We are working very hard to ensure that everyone has a good time these three evenings," Chu said, flanked by police chiefs from across Metro Vancouver.

Authorities are making one major change from the way they policed during the playoff run. Officers will be set up at major public transit depots across Metro Vancouver to watch for over-consumption of alcohol and open bottles.

"It is clear from what we have seen from the aftermath of June 15 (the night of the riot) we need to interdict liquor on a more vigilant basis," Chu added.

If caught with an open alcohol container, a $230 ticket will be issued.

Along with the "hundreds and hundreds" of uniformed officers, Chu told reporters undercover officers will be working the crowd looking for potential problems. This is the first time police have used the Citizen's Crime Watch team, made up of 150 civilian volunteers.

Unlike the public viewing areas during the playoffs, there will be no checkpoints for bag searches.

The event has drawn criticism in the past because of unruly and intoxicated people. West End residents have complained of public urination and other nuisances associated with the large crowd.

The city has set up hundreds of portable toilets to deal with the problem and will continue to hand out fines to people peeing in public.

Event organizers have added bleachers this year, set up at English Bay for prime viewing at $45 each.

This year at the Celebration of Light, there will also be zero-waste stations set up to reduce garbage. The stations have been implemented while working closely with City of Vancouver Sanitation and Solid Waste management departments to help keep beaches clean.

The event runs until Aug. 6.